McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 2, 2012

Kiowa re-appoints trustee who lost his seat after he failed to attend state class

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER —  

The Kiowa Board of Trustees voted to reinstate a member who lost his seat in September for failing to attend a state mandated course, according to JoMae Peck, city clerk. 
The Kiowa Board of Trustees met Monday for thier regular meeting.
“It was unanimous,” Peck said of the vote to re-appoint Ray Goss to the his seat overseeing ward 5 for the Town of Kiowa.
The move to re-appoint Goss “makes a mockery” of state law, according to Joey Senat, Ph.D. and Associate Professor at the OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications.
“This board is making a mockery of the requirement. (Goss) did not live up to his obligations as a board of trustee member and he should not have been re-appointed.”
“It’s astonishing,” Senat said. “The law is pretty clear,” he said.
He said because Goss did not fulfill his obligations, the citizens should have the right to be able to vote to re-elect him.
Goss was officially removed from his seat at the September board of trustee meeting after serving five months past the date he should have been removed according to state law. Because he was removed past the date he should have been any decisions he may have voted on will have to revaluated, according to attorney John Thomas.
“We will have to re-look at every decision he voted on since April,” Thomas said.
During last months board meeting, Kiowa Mayor Janelle Beaver said Ray Goss lost his seat in April when he didn’t take the required course within one year of his election in April of 2011.
She also asked the town’s attorney about the possibility of re-appointing Goss after he took the class.
Attorney John Thomas told the mayor and the trustees that the purpose of the law is not to find a way around it, it’s to cause municipal officials to be responsible for their position. 
“We need to follow the law, Thomas said. “That was the intention of the legislature.”
He said the statute was put into place for a reason.
“I want our citizens of Kiowa to know that they are getting a government that respects both the intent of the law as well as the letter of the law,” Thomas said.
Senat said that if the board chooses not to follow the law it’s their own decision.
He said Thomas not only represents the board of trustees he represents the people of Kiowa. 
“He represents the citizens of this town, and if the board doesn’t follow the law, that’s the (boards) decision.”
The class that Goss and all newly elected municipal officers must attend covers municipal budget requirements, the Oklahoma Open meeting Act, the Oklahoma Open Records Act, ethics, procedures for conducting meeting, conflict of interest and purchasing procedures, according to Carolyn Stager executive director of the  Oklahoma Municipal League. 
“The law has been place since 2006,” she said. “It basically reduces liability issues for cities and towns, because without  training on  municipal laws, officials who aren’t trained can get into trouble.”
The Oklahoma Municipal League website lists all the names of newly elected members of Oklahoma cities and towns which have taken the required class.
According to the Oklahoma statute, each person elected for the first time to a position of a municipality on or after January 1, 2005, or appointed for the first time on or after July 1, 2006, to must attend an institute for municipal officer “...They shall cease to hold the office...” An officer is defined in the law as “any person who is elected to an office in municipal government or is appointed to fill an unexpired term of an elected office, and the clerk and the treasurer whether elected or appointed.”
The law also states that if the “officer” or “official” does not comply with the law the holder of the position or duty is not an officer or official of the municipality for any purpose.
Meanwhile, Peck said Goss did attend the class earlier this month after he was removed from his seat. 
Present at this month’s meeting was Trustee for Ward 1, Bob Ramey, Ward 2 Trustee, and Mayor Janelle Beaver, Trustee for Ward 3, Theresa Ortiz and Trustee for Ward 4, Jim Ryan and newly re-appointed Ward 5 Board of Trustee Member Ray Goss, according to Peck.
The Board of Trustees for the Town of Kiowa meets at 7 p.m. the last Monday of the month at the Kiowa Town Hall 813 S. Harrison Road.
 
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone. Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.